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Not closing the plant

August 9, 2012
The Daily News


I must respond to the "Let's be realistic" letter in the Aug. 1 Daily News.

I enjoy reading the author's letters because they are not the typical diatribe coming from other letter writers.

However, the letter is completely misinterpreting the events that are leading to the closing of the Marquette power plant.

First off, EPA is not closing the plant. EPA does not own any power plants and cannot close them down. We Energies is the owner of the plant and has decided to close it. The question is why?

In 2005, We Energies planned to build two new coal-fired units at the Oak Creek facility. We Energies argued that the plants were needed to satisfy increasing demand. Michigan and Illinois's Attorney Generals opposed the construction.

Arguments by customers of We Energies that the utility's new coal-fired power plant in Oak Creek is not needed because Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula have sufficient power were rejected by Public Service Commission, PSC, regulators in Michigan. The Michigan PSC rejected proposals by the Michigan attorney general, and gave We Energies permission to start collecting from Michigan customers for the new power plant (see Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article "Michigan U.P. customers will pay $23 million for Oak Creek coal plant, July 1, 2010).

On the bright side because the second unit has not opened, Michigan customers won't have to pay for that yet. The company had initially proposed to raise rates of Michigan customers by 33 percent, or $42 million, but because the second unit is not opened, the rate increase will be $23 million.

I feel so much better.

Obviously, since We Energies is now closing the Marquette plant, the added capacity was not needed. If the capacity was needed, state PSC regulators as well as federal FERC regulators would not allow the closing of the plant. It would be labeled "must run." Now that We Energies has the new plant they are using the EPA as a scapegoat to close an older more expensive to run power plant because the capacity is not needed.

So what does the U.P. get? We get to pay for a new We Energies power plant in Wisconsin, we get more unemployment, we get a huge hit to a local tax base, but don't forget We Energies gets two new, very profitable, coal-fired units.

The decision to close the Marquette plant was an economic one not a regulatory one.

As to the letter's climate change arguments, I am not sure if the author believes in climate change or not.

However, I must clarify that, at this time, there are no controls that you can put on a power plant that reduce CO2 emissions.

The number of carbon atoms in the fuel you are burning directly relates to the amount of CO2 produced (simple chemistry). So the statement that Asian countries have "virtually no controls" does not make sense in a climate change discussion since no country has these add-on controls.

Roger Thunell

Reisterstown, Md.

Formerly of Quinnesec



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